By: Paula Gregorowicz
Everyone who wants to have a presence on the web (and if you’re in business, that means YOU) needs to host their site somewhere. I explained why that is so in a recent Web 101 article on hosting. So, you know you need one, but how do you go about choosing one? After all, you see ads for web hosting all over the Internet with prices ranging from a few dollars a month and up (and up). Which one is right for you?
First of all there are really only 3 main categories of web hosting: dedicated hosting, virtual dedicated hosting, and shared hosting. Dedicated hosting means that your site and your site alone is the only one that resides on a single physical server. The benefits are that you often get to configure the server in a more custom way and the only activity and traffic that affects your site is your own. That being said, dedicated hosting is very expensive (usually $80/month and UP) and not something the typical small or solo business owner needs. Virtual dedicated hosting gives you the administrative power of dedicated hosting without being the sole site on a given server. Pricing for virtual dedicated servers are in the midrange ($30/mo and up). Shared hosting, on the other hand, is just what it says — multiple sites are hosted on a single physical server. This is the hosting most people use because it is very cost effective and can start as low as $4/month for a small, basic package. The only conceivable downside to shared hosting is that what one site on a server does (traffic, etc.) can affect others. However, it has been my experience that for most small to medium size sites it is sufficient assuming you choose a good hosting company.
What makes a hosting company good? In my opinion there are key services you need from your host in order to effectively and reliably house your business’ Internet presence.
Reliability and Monitoring
If your site is not up and available you are not in business on the web. Therefore, your host should have a very high uptime statistic (like 99% or above). Any scheduled outages should be well communicated, short, and at off-peak times (think middle of the night US time). Unscheduled problems should be resolved quickly and efficiently. In addition, ensure that the hosting company monitors its servers 24X7. In this day and age of pagers, automatic performance monitoring, and alert systems, you shouldn’t be the one having to call them and inform them of a problem. They should know the minute it happens (or before) and be handling it ASAP. Let’s face it things can and do happen, you just want to make sure it is a very rare exception and is handled promptly and appropriately.
24X7 Free Support
You should have access to your host’s support team not only via e-mail or live chat but also by telephone 24X7. You shouldn’t have to wait an eternity in the queue either. Personally I consider waiting any more than 10 minutes to be a total joke (and I’m being generous). When you get someone on the phone they should be knowledgeable, easy to understand (as in speak plain English without techno babble or an accent so thick that a ginzu knife couldn’t cut it), and willing to do what it takes to help you. (Before you start commenting that I am taking a dig at diversity, I love all the exciting differences that fall into the big melting pot. I just don’t think phone support is the best way to leverage the skills of someone who doesn’t have strong communication skills.)
Using her signature down to earth and “plain English” approach to website design, Paula Gregorowicz and The Paula G. Company work with small and solo business owners to make the web work for them so their online presence is a true reflection of who they are. Visit http://www.paulagwebdesign.com